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The Glass Bees (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – September 30, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A fantastic, tightly compressed novel. . .a wonderfully provocative fusion of fiction and philosophy." -- The Atlantic

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (September 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322554
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
How do you even begin to do justice to a novel like this? I would imagine that this could very well be a polarizing novel. (Keep in mind my personal philosophy is largely derived from Rene Guenon, et al.) However, I don't think anyone could doubt the quality of the prose itself.

As stated, very little actually happens. Actually, the "action" herein is probably a mere tenth or so of the length, but don't be fooled - Junger will string you along for a few pages, and then hit you with a philosophical passage that begs reading and re-reading. This is a science fiction novel by technical definition, although there is little actual emphasis on the technology; it is presented more as an allegory for the modern age.
The plot is very simple. Captain Richard, an aging war veteran, is given a job interview by the "great Zapparoni" (who is sort of mixture between Walt Disney and Rupert Murdoch). Richard, despite having no short amount of noblisse oblige (nurtured in an earlier, more noble era) nevertheless has cultivated an identity based on failure, largely resulting from being out of step with the current age. He is a man caught between two worlds - he cannot bear to destroy himself even in lieu of the pointlessness of modern existence, yet is unwilling to sacrifice himself to the new technological gods, who demand little more than technical efficiency and blind obedience at the expense of human perfection.
When I was reading this novel, I was reminded of Spengler's introduction to _The Decline of the West_, in which he differentiated between "men of action" and "men of contemplation". Men of action, Spengler said, are the logical result of the particular era they live in (sadly, the figures of Bill Clinton and George W.
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Format: Paperback
Captain Richard trained as a swashbuckling cavalry officer, but increasingly mechanised forms of warfare forced him to become a tank technician. Now, down on his luck after a life that reads like a radically compressed history of the twentieth century, he approaches the industrialist Zapparoni for a job. As the book came out in the 1950s and its author was born before the turn of the century, Zapparoni's products are called "robots" or "automata"; but they're a far cry from Asimov's Robots and Mechanical Men. As Bruce Sterling points out in his intriguing introduction, some passages from The Glass Bees, taken out of context, might easily have come from a computer magazine of the 1990s, blaring the wonders of miniaturisation and CD-ROM. The bulk of the novel comprises Richard's meditations before, during and after his interview with Zapparoni, and Junger's prescience is impressive not only in terms of the technology he envisages, but also in terms of its effect. Richard notes, for example, that the artificial bees' total efficiency in collecting nectar - not a drop left inside - will simply cause the flowers to die off through lack of cross-pollination. Written with brilliant and chilly clarity, and climaxing in an episode of restrained horror and terrifying ambiguity, The Glass Bees is an examination of the moral and cultural price of technology, from the perspective of a man who had seen plenty. However, although Sterling compares him with Celine, Junger is neither rancorous nor misanthropic. Indeed, despite the fact that Richard's wife is mentioned only a few times and never appears in person, the book is also a rather touching affirmation of human love.
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Format: Paperback
A couple of decades ago The Washington Post interviewed a number of illustious writers and asked each of them to name the 10 best books they had ever read. I read the lists, mentally judging whether or not I would have selected the same books and noting the books I had not read that I might. The lists included the usual references to MOBY DICK, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, and the BIBLE, but one list included THE GLASS BEES by Ernst Junger.
For reasons unknown to me, I am attracted to any book with the word bees or honey in the title, but the fact that the protagonist Captain Richard was a German veteran also caught my interest. I had read many books, articles, etc. by and about U.S. soldiers and veterans, but had not read anything by or about German veterans and I wanted to know more. Also, at the time I discovered THE GLASS BEES the newspapers were filled with articles about unemployed Vietnam veterans, so the fact that Captian Richard was also unemployed further intrigued me.
Now I don't like science fiction, but, by the time I realized THE GLASS BEES was science fiction (at least it was when the book was written), I found myself hooked on a book I would never have gone out of my way to read, about things I did not want to know. I am a gardener, and I love nature, but this book presents a terrifying look into a world anyone who loves nature will abhor.
THE GLASS BEES is about the war technological forces are waging against nature. Have you read THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN by Leo Marx? This is the next step. Forget the locomotive engine crashing through the underbrush, the technology in this book makes the locomotive engine look positively benign.
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